Wednesday, August 14, 2013

On Pachebel and Accordions

Pachebel’s Canon is one of my favorite pieces of music.  Debbie and I used it as the prelude at our wedding, which gives it for me additional affective power.  Early in my days at my church in Ohio, I shared this with my church organist.  He countered that it was one of his least favorite pieces of music and asked that he never be asked to play it in worship. (He was an extremely talented musician and, therefore, fairly high strung and opinionated when it came to music.  His talent purchased for him a lot of patience on my part and the part of the congregation.)  Not many weeks after that, he shared with me that his wife played the accordion.  I confessed to him that the accordion was my least favorite instrument and asked that his wife never play it in a worship service.  These were two issues on which we were never going to find common ground.  It was healthy to get them out in the open early in our work together.

Several weeks later, he brought to me a cassette recording with 12 different renderings of Pachebel’s Canon.  He suggested to me that I could listen to it whenever I wished and thereby get my fill of the piece.  I suggested that his wife could play her accordion in worship when I was on vacation.  I wore out the tape over the years, and his wife played her accordion each year during my summer vacation.  We never agreed about Pachebel and accordions, but we did work together in harmony.

Agreement and harmony are not the same thing.  We sometimes make that mistake.  We think that harmony in our various communities—home, church, and civil society—necessitates agreement; it does not.  We can live in harmony with people with whom we disagree.

Paul writes:
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. (Col. 3:12-15).

Paul writes about “bearing one another” in the same breath with “perfect harmony.”  The word translated “bear” means: forbear; endure; or put up with.  It does not mean agree with one another on everything.  He describes a reciprocal arrangement: I put up with you, and you put up with me.    Harmony springs from a common purpose and mutual core commitments.  It is fed by mutual concern and a desire to seek the well being of the other.  It is a sign that we have taken the peace of Christ to heart in our living.  Harmony is possible in the midst of our disagreements.  We don’t have to agree on everything to live in harmony.  We do have to bear with one another.  That is what Paul is saying; he wants something deeper for us than simple agreement.  We seek agreement as a substitute for harmony because it is simpler, easier, faster, and asks less of us.  Harmony, on the other hand, involves forgiveness and love.  In other words, it is labor intensive.  One of the core values of our Region is connectedness.  Forbearance that leads to harmony is a central feature of this connectedness.

A Footnote:  When Debbie and I arrived in Belgium and for the first time met with the house church that we were to pastor, the church musician walked in with—you guessed—an accordion case—the accordion, up close and personal, every Sunday in my living room for four years.  As the Psalmist writes: “He who sits in the heavens laughs…. (Psalm 2:4).

Jim Kelsey
Executive Minister American Baptist Churches-New York State

Please note: I will be on vacation until September 2nd.  You can contact the Region office of Jerrod Hugenot, Associate Executive Minister (518-380-4510 or if you have a pressing matter.)
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As American Baptists of New York State, we will embrace God's future with these core values: honesty, connectedness and hope. We will uphold our operational values in every aspect of our common ministry.

Monday, August 5, 2013

An Economic Issue you can do something about: Caring for the one who cares for you

Income taxes, the federal budget, the extension of unemployment insurance, subsidized student loans, sequestration, minimum wage, Social Security, the regulation of Wall Street, Medicare and Medicaid—the list goes on and on.  Each of these issues can be cast as a question of economic fairness.  I certainly don’t know all the right answers.  Do you?

There is one economic issue, however, where I will propose an answer:
Making provision for church employees and their families in the event of disability or death and insuring that they will have income in retirement is the responsibility of those whom they serve.  These church employees serve faithfully and sacrificially, but they will not serve forever.  When they retire, they will need income to sustain them.

The principal way that American Baptist congregations care for the long-term well being of their pastors and other church employees is through the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMBB). The MMBB provides several ways that congregations of all sizes can provide for their pastors and other lay employees.  Whether your church employees are part-time or full-time, you can responsibly care for them through the MMBB. Several of the options:

Benefits for Life

A church can enroll their employees in the Benefits for Life program.  This option funds a 100% vested retirement account for the employee and also provides long-term disability insurance and a death benefit should the employee die while serving the church.  The church pays a monthly premium of 16% of the employee’s salary and housing allowance or value of parsonage-provided housing.  Thirteen percent of the premium funds the retirement account; the other 3% funds the disability and life insurance.  For more information on this program, go to

Retirement Only Benefits

If a church feels they cannot fund the Benefits for Life program at this time, they can choose the less costly Retirement Only Benefits program.  The church can make smaller monthly contributions or irregular periodic contributions.  This is a place that every church can begin.   For more information, go to

The Annuity Supplement

Once an employee is enrolled in one of the above plans, they can make additional contributions to their retirement fund through The Annuity Supplement by having money withheld for their paycheck.  You can find out more at

Each of us is limited in what we can do about national economic issues, but we can do something about an economic issue closer to home: the well being of those who serve in ministry.  As you church puts together its budget this autumn, make sure there is a line in there for MMBB contributions. If you wish to discuss ways that you can better care for your pastor, please contact me at or 315-469-4236 ext. 14 or visit

Jim Kelsey, Executive Minister                                                                            

As American Baptists of New York State, we will embrace God's future with these core values: honesty, connectedness and hope. We will uphold our operational values in every aspect of our common ministry.